Puppets Plant Ideas
07 Sep 2006
The story of Elzeard Bouffier begins in a land scoured by winds on the high plains of Provence. Nothing grows but dry grass and lavender, the fragrance of which is wafted over the audience using giant fans.
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The story of Elzeard Bouffier begins in a barren land, parched and scoured by winds, on the high plains of Provence. Nothing grows there but dry grass and lavender, the fragrance of which is wafted over the audience using giant fans. No one lives there but a shepherd and his dog ñ the stars of a remarkable puppet show, performed at Edinburgh Festival by Richard Medrington and Rick Conte.
Using sounds, smells, and beautifully crafted puppets and scenery, they tell the story of a simple man who planted trees all his life and in the process, transformed the land and the lives around him.
Jean Giono, played by Richard, tells how he first met Elzeard in 1910. The old man would sort and plant hundreds of acorns everyday. Jean, a young man, went on to fight in Verdun and at the Somme. Horrified by all the conflict, he returned to Provence.
“I spent the whole day walking through Elzeard’s forest. The oak trees that he’d planted in 1910 were taller than I was. There were birch plantations from 1915, when I’d been fighting in Verdun. They looked like young men and women, full of the will to live,” said Jean. Over 60 years, Elzeard continued his work with-out rest or recognition. Under the Vichy French regime, parts of the forest were chopped down to make fuel. But Elzeard patiently continued to plant.
When Jean visited again, after the war, he no longer recognised the land. “I was amazed to hear the sound of water… and everywhere was lush and green.”
“Although it’s a fictional story, it’s got more truth in it than most stories that I know,” Richard said after the performance. “Patience, wisdom, modesty, and respect for nature ñ all of these we can take from Elzeard’s life. It’s a story for people whose stories have never been told because nobody knows who they are.”
For bookings and details of other performances tel: 0131 441 9693
“He’s behind you!” Richard and puppet, Elzeard. Photo: © Puppet State Theatre Co.
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